Google Confirms Elimination of Right Side Ads on Desktop Search: What Does This Mean to Your Business & Digital Strategy

Posted by Andrew Watson on 02/22/2016

Last week, Snaptech Marketing was one of the first agencies to break the news that Google is about to implement a dramatic change to remove ads from the right side of desktop search. In our last blog post, we noted Google’s confirmation that the changes are being applied to all searches—in all languages worldwide. All ads will no longer appear on the right side of desktop search, with the exception of Product Listing Ads (PLAs).

Google released a statement regarding the details of this initiative:

"We’ve been resting this layout for a long time, so some people might see it on a very small number of commercial queries. We’ll continue to make tweaks, but this is designed for highly commercial queries where the layout is able to provide more relevant results for people searching and better performance for advertisers.”

The removal of these ads has implications for marketers and businesses going forward. This change will have huge implications that will affect your overall Search Marketing Strategy and efforts for desktop users (both organic and paid). In this post, we will outline and discuss the various implications of this change on digital going forward.

What Does This Change Mean to Your Business & Digital Strategy?

Paid Search Traffic for Desktop Users

In a high stakes game of musical chairs, pure supply and demand says costs will rise with fewer chairs.

The impact on paid search is likely going to be more drastic than for organic – and likely more negative, if you don’t have the right strategy in place. Advertisers will have to shift gears and face increasing competition from organic search as costs for paid ads rise.

The less obvious answer is that we will see higher Click-through Rates (CTRs) and better QSs. If queries where ads used to be (in position 4+) were off topic anyway, then removing them from the equation and leaving queries closer to the center of the target means ads are more likely to be clicked when they do appear. There will be less distraction on the page from irrelevant ads, which will be rewarded via QS and will apply downward pressure on price.

  • Traditionally, we saw 8-10 paid advertisers in search results (3 on the top and 5-8 on the right hand side and/or at the bottom). Those advertisers will now have to compete for the top 4 spots; thus, it will have an effect on both the cost-per-conversion and cost-per-click rates. If not done right, we could see a big negative jump for both.
  • It is very plausible to assume that AdWords will become inaccessible to many of the smaller businesses who are advertising right now. We could foresee a highly negative impact for contractors who are seasonal and will no longer be able to justify the cost. I also see many advertisers flocking to Bing and other digital channels, hoping for a lower cost per conversion.
  • Google’s changes could be a catalyst for potentially higher cost per conversion rates and fewer impressions for advertisers. This will make it harder for brands to be seen and may alter their advertising strategy and capabilities.
  • There may be less opportunity to build campaigns around ads positioned lower down in search at lower cost per conversions.
  • Larger players with larger budgets and 1-3 average position mentalities are likely to be less affected. The losers will be the side bar bidders that will not see even less clicks, because Organic results will show before their ad even appears. This could have a consequential effect on local listings; however, this is only speculation as of now.
  •  A greater importance can be put on the merchant center shopping feed, which is the other way to have a presence at the top of the page without bidding for text ad position.

While the removal of sidebar has severe consequences, it does also come with a few positive expectations:

  • 4th ads on the top will allow for more ad extension real estate (sitelinks, callouts, call extensions, etc.) Since the real estate visual will change in its entirety, an impact on organic is expected. As a result, it is possible to potentially expect more market share for paid ads over organic clicks.
  •  CPC’s will only rise for those that played in the Sidebar market. For those of us who fall in the 1-3 average search position game, not much will change. If old sidebar players may step up bids to be ranked fourth, that may put some pressure on fourth and third place bidders, but only time will tell within the individual verticals and competition in your local geo-targeted area.
  •  At the end of the day, it could mean you end up paying more when ads are clicked, offset by a greater efficiency. For some clients, that may end up being a net gain.
  • While the elimination of ads isn’t necessarily good, the freed up space does give Google the opportunity to use the right hand side for other information such as shopping ads, knowledge boxes, etc.
  • Savvy advertisers might welcome this change; in large part, due to the fact that it will allow them to out-think and out-strategize less involved CPC managers.

Organic Search Traffic for Desktop Users

Ad real estate is about to change in its entirety and we expect it will have an impact on organic traffic, affecting users both positively and negatively. Here we will list the pros and cons that will result from the expected change from google.

  • A lot of companies "losing” paid traffic efforts may opt to shift their focus toward organic; therefore, we could expect to see a more crowded and competitive organic search space.
  • Since the visual ad real estate is changing in its entirety, and impact on organic traffic is expected.

How to React and Take Advantage of this Change?

Re-align your strategy with this new change

These sudden changes could become problematic for your brand. To mitigate this, the best solution is to revisit your current Search Engine Marketing (SEM) strategy and have this align with this new change. Organizations that procrastinate or fail to adapt to this changes will end up either paying a lot more money for clicks and cost-per-acquisition (CPA), or fall of the digital map entirely (primarily due to extremely low search results).

Figure Out the Right Solution

Figuring out the right solution might be your greatest challenge. The right solution is "hidden” within your own data, as well as your competitions’ data. Take a comprehensive look at your data to find out where you can optimize and create the right strategy to help your brand navigate through this change.

Find yourself a "Data Storyteller”

Once you have the data, you need a "Data Storyteller” to sift through the mountains of information and find the so-called "golden nuggets;” in turn, translating these into actionable insights and recommendations that will bring a positive effect to your SEM efforts.

Early Bird Gets the Worm

If done correctly, companies that act upon and swiftly adapt to this change are expected to outperform their competition; therefore, they may ultimately end up turning something initially perceived as detrimental to their brand into something positive.

In Conclusion

Digital marketing is constantly changing, and while this is another curveball that will have an impact on many businesses, your brand does not have to become a victim. Proper analysis, strategizing and execution that fits within the sphere of this new change will keep your business continuity afloat. Adapting to frequent changes is part of a marketer’s job; the businesses that adapt the quickest and most efficiently will mitigate losses while seeing greater returns in other areas.

Snaptech Marketing

As a result of the unexpected and drastic changes from Google, Snaptech will offer you a complimentary Search Engine Marketing audit and Data Storytelling. A proud Google partner, we use our data-driven approach to analyze your data and provide effective strategies that will not only help you navigate through the ever-changing landscape, but thrive in it. Contact us to receive your free SEM Audit with a Data Storytelling Analysis & Strategic Recommendations.

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